Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Garden Party and Other Stories

The Garden Party and Other Stories is Katherine Mansfield’s most famous work.  I had heard so many good things about these stories that once I had a copy of the collection, I really had to read them (thank you Project Gutenberg, though the book nerd in me still wants a hard copy).  In general, I thought these were great stories.  I found the characters very believeable.  I wrote a few sentences (or more) on each story.

At The Bay

At The Bay is a good story, but I didn’t see the point.  It was well written and there were definite parts I found interesting, but I didn't feel any real connection to the characters.  I also felt it was very long.
See the full review I wrote for Short Story Monday.

The Garden Party

The Garden Party immediately reminded me of Mrs. Dalloway, though it's been so long since I read that book, I wonder why.

The Garden Party is a great story and deserving of being the title of the collection.  It was easily my favourite. I expected some kind of high society tale. I expected the characters to be more shallow, which many of them were. Laura was different.  Though in the story only for a couple moments, I found her brother Laurie to be different too. They had other dimensions, other facets besides society life. I really enjoyed how Laura grows. She goes from naive girl to a young woman with some new life experience. The end was so unexpected. The entire story was fantastic. 

The Daughters of the Late Colonel

They are the forgotten sisters. It was a well written story, with a pair of very interesting characters, but it was so sad. I didn’t want to end my reading for the day here. I hope Josephine and Constantia find happiness now that they are out from under their oppressive father.

Mr. and Mrs. Dove

This is another sad story, but not in the same way. It's like the opposite of the underdog love story. The poor-ish young man goes to ask the beautiful, wealthy woman to marry him and she says, no. However, she still wants him to be happy. She wants him not to be upset by her answer. She doesn't want them to be like the doves. Then, why does she call him back as he tries to walk away, with what I think is with a last shred of dignity. Why does she call him Mr. Dove? Why does he go back to her when called? Has she changed her mind? I don't know. This is another great story in the collection.

The Young Girl

She's a snobby teenager, who finally gets a moment to be herself. She spends the rest of the time putting on airs.  

See the full review I wrote for Short Story Monday.

Life of Ma Parker

Life of Ma Parker is an utterly depressing story. Mansfield wrote about the saddest life she could conceive of, I think. At least the rain came so she could have her cry.

Marriage a la Mode

Is it terrible that I've read this story and what I'm thinking is: why can't she be a better wife?

The Voyage

A good story, but I'm not sure what to make of it. It's like a life lesson for Fenella. She learns her grandma is more than what she thought. It's also seems to be a glimpse of her traveling, from an old life to a new one.

Miss Brill

She's treating her fur like a pet! She is a weird lady.  The young couple is so mean!  They make fun of the woman and her fur. She puts the fur away, and she continues to talk to and about it like a pet.  She thinks she hears it crying. Another well-written, though also depressing story.

Her First Ball

Are these the same characters from The Garden Party?

This story was only depressing for a moment, when "the fat man" took her for a dance. Really, Leila's first ball is full of hope and nerves and fun. I hope she gets many more.

The Singing Lesson

It's a miracle she's engaged at thirty! Hahaha! Definitely written a long time ago. Though women today are still so affected by men's changes in emotions, but I suppose it is natural when it's the person you love.  Though after her fiancé’s behaviour, I’d have second thoughts about marrying him, even if I was thirty.

The Stranger

Another poor, sad, depressing story. He just wants his wife to be as happy as he is that they are together after her long trip. She can't be. Now he feels like she'll be a stranger forever. Why not a happy reunion? Come on, Katherine Mansfield! Give me a happy (or at least somewhat positive) ending!  It was such a good story, why couldn’t their reunion bring her back to the woman she was?

Bank Holiday

Not a totally depressing story. It's a fun and exciting day outdoors. There is music and all sorts of people. But what's the point? And that's just what Mansfield asks at the end.

An Ideal Family

Another man unsure of his wife... and family. He worked so hard for them, do they take advantage of him? Do they appreciate what he's done? Is it his own fault his son isn't more reliable? I wish this family could have a happy ending too.

The Lady's Maid

Is the lady's maid crazy? How could she give up a happy marriage to stay, no matter how she cared for her lady? It's such a sad story. I wish I could know what was wrong with her.

In conclusion...

The Garden Party is the best story of whole collection. It is the least sad.  I found it very vibrant, especially compared to the rest of the collection.  I really enjoyed The Young Girl and Her First Ball too.  I found most of the other stories depressing.  Well written and engaging, just sad.  They give us a really good look at life at the time.  There are just not a lot of "happily-ever-afters".  Katherine Mansfield tells the stories of many different types of people. Men and women, young and old.  After Mansfield's death, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary that the only writer she was ever jealous of was Katherine Mansfield.  I can see why.  While maybe not as famous as Woolf, her writing is very readable, even ninety years later.

I know I complained a lot about the depressing and sad feelings prevalent in a lot of the stories, but don't let that be a deterrent.  The Garden Party and Other Stories is an excellent collection.  I think it has more to do with my own reading choices of late.  I need to find a story that I think will have a happy ending....  If you’re a fan of Woolf or of good narratives, The Garden Party and Other Stories is for you.

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